Greenpoint is bordered by bustling Williamsburg and its name is increasingly heard on the lips of young, trendy types. Yet, it still seems like a local secret. Quirks of geography and public transit give this northernmost Brooklyn neighborhood a feeling of isolation. Newtown Creek curves in from the East River, separating it from Queens. The G train, the only subway that doesn’t enter Manhattan, is the only line that stops in the neighborhood. These days, it’s not uncommon to see carefree hipsters biking past elderly residents sweeping the streets. But the area’s large multi-generational Polish community maintains the neighborhood’s traditionally placid, familial vibe.
In the mid-1800s, a powerhouse of heavy industry (shipyards, potteries, glassworks and foundries) lined Newtown Creek and the East River. The factories built a solid working-class community, but also produced a lot of pollution. It’s estimated that 17 million gallons of petrol seeped into the ground over the years; an oil spill from 1950 is still being cleaned. Now, those factories are being renovated as lofts and a handful of galleries and independent boutiques are taking root. As new condo buildings slowly rise, the small Greenpoint Historic District, roughly bounded by Kent, Calyer, and Franklin Streets to the west of Manhattan Avenue, preserves the yesteryear charm of leafy streets and late 19th-century row houses. East past McGuinness Boulevard is mostly residential, with walk-up apartment buildings and single-family homes serving an increasing Hispanic immigration. In the shadow of St. Stanislaus Kostka’s towering stone spire, Msgr. McGolrick Park is a grand and underused respite for whiling away an afternoon with a book or a picnic. Livelier McCarren Park, with its ball fields and Olympic-sized swimming pool, separates Greenpoint from Williamsburg.
Manhattan Avenue, the neighborhood’s main drag, offers a busy mix of discount clothing shops, drugstores, delis and banks, plus the Polish butchers and markets that befit Greenpoint’s “Little Poland” nickname. Franklin Street has developed into a parallel commercial district for the hipster set, where bars stock PBR and trendy boutiques sell locally tailored jeans and ethically sourced candles. Nightlife radiates from two G train stops: Greenpoint Avenue (in the traditional heart of the neighborhood) and Nassau Avenue (a busier hub just north of McCarren Park). While nearby streets stay busy past midnight most days, side streets often feel empty — even in the daytime — and it’s wise to avoid the more industrial areas east of McGuinness Avenue after dark.
Yellow cabs can be difficult to come by, but bar and restaurant staffers are usually happy to call a car service for you. If crossing to Manhattan, avoid the Queens-Midtown Tunnel toll by taking either the Williamsburg Bridge (for Downtown destinations) or the Queensboro Bridge (for Midtown). During the day, riding the East River Ferry from the India Street slip to points south (like Wall Street or Brooklyn Bridge) is a fun excursion that offers lovely views of the Manhattan skyline.